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Easter commence: sugar rush or hot cross bunnies?

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Easter is a time of wonder. Children everywhere wonder what the connection is between Jesus, crucifixion, resurrection, a mysterious rabbit, a chicken and chocolate eggs, retailers are wondering who is going to reap the predicted boom in sales the long weekend is likely to yield. Who is going to get the Easter sugar rush and who are going to be the hot cross bunnies?

Retail analyst Springboard [IRDX VSPR] believes that there is going to be an 8.8% boost to footfall this weekend, driven by Easter being post-payday and the weather being nice. But others – notably BRC-KPMG, PCA Predict, and Fujitsu – believe that the shopping bonanza that now accompanies any public holiday is going to be an online affair: not least driven by mobile.

And they have good reason to see this Easter as yet another digital nail in the high street’s coffin. Even if the weather is good, goes the argument, shoppers are going to turn to mobile to do the buying while they enjoy the sun, not head to the shops to womble about when they could be going pink or having a barbeque.

Another reason to fear for the high street is that mobile is not just a technology preferred by young people when it comes to shopping. According to DigitalBridge, which commissioned “The Imagination Gap: Retail’s £1bn problem” report, baby boomers are just as eager to see next generation technology such as mixed reality and artificial intelligence being adopted by retailers as their millennial counterparts.

Mobile is driving shopping now – both online and around the high street.

There are two problems here: Firstly, the high street really has to catch up if it is to survive; and secondly, all retailers have to look to mobile first if they are to reap the online boom that is going to inflict such harm on the high street.

The former issue is a big problem for high street retailers. Hidden in all the figures about footfall and sales over Easter is a nugget of information that is crucial to understanding the problem at hand. According to the BRC-KPMG figures, shoppers are going out and spending, just not in shops. Instead, they are going to pubs, restaurants, cinemas and other ‘experiences’ instead. To survive the bricks and mortal retail world has to become experiential.

Which dovetails nicely into the second problem: online retail is mobile first. Retailers are seeing great benefits from opting for a mobile-optimised experience. High-end homeware retailer Joseph Joseph has seen sales soar once it switched to a mobile optimised ecommerce approach. It reported a boost in unique year-on-year users of 20%, while seeing a reduction in bounce rate of 14%. The increase in web traffic has directly resulted in a 45% growth in revenue and attributed to a 25% increase in conversions. The improved mobile-responsive design also contributed to a 57% increase in new mobile users, directly leading to a 71% growth in mobile transactions.

And here in lies the answer to all retailer’s problems: go mobile. To tap into the boom in ecommerce expected over this and every subsequent holiday, go mobile. To save the high street, go mobile – it is the link between the online and offline world’s and is where experience is created.

Here high street retailers actually have an advantage. They are so far behind in what consumers want from them that they have a blank canvas. Technology such as AR, AI and VR are now at a point where they can be deployed and retailers have to think very seriously about taking the leap. Heck, even the antediluvian insurance industry is now investing heavily in IoT. If they can make the leap into the 21st Century, then so can high street retailers.

Easter is not only a time of wonder, but also one to contemplate resurrection. Can the high street roll away the stone?

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